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TUESDAY, MAY 22, 2007

FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER SET VISIT -- CAST PRESS CONFERENCE

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Today The Continuum begins a series of reports from the set of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer late last November.

The Continuum was part of a group of television and online journalists who were given tours of the sets and interviewed the film's major players, including the cast, director Tim Story and producer Ralph Winter. Look for daily reports on the film up through the June 16 release here in The Continuum.

Today's story is a press conference with the cast -- Ioan Gruffudd (Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic), Jessical Alba (Sue Storm/Invisible Woman), Chris Evans (Johnny Storm/Human Torch), Michael Chiklis (Ben Grimm/Thing) and Julian McMahon (Doctor Doom).

Question:: Julian, can you tell about the new-and-improved Doctor Doom and how much fun was it to be more evil this time?

McMahon: Well, I didn't I was. I think it was part of my personality. After doing the movie the first time, I became a bit of an asshole and I portrayed that in the evilness of this character.

He's just a little more evil because he's coming back for revenge, I think. And then we have the new suit, which is pretty kind of extraordinary. I just wore it for the first time last week. It looks amazing. I can't tell you too much about it, but it's very evil.

But at the same time, it's not that evil. I always pictured this movie as kind of a kids movie, so you don't want to be that evil that the little kiddies can't be watching it.

It's been fun. I haven't been here the whole time like these guys have. I've been kind of flitting in and out because I've been shooting my TV show at the same time, so I haven't been as immersed in it this time around as I was last time. But it's been good fun. And it's been evil.

Question:: To each of the cast members, what's new or what's different for your characters?

Evans: I think everyone has a pretty good arc. They make sure everyone has a journey. In the first one, I think Johnny was kind of a one-man show and wanted center stage. And I think the reason the Fantastic Four have always succeeded as a group of super-heroes and as a comic book is that they're a family, they're a unit, they're a group. And I think Johnny has to know and respect that and I think in this movie he kind of learns to appreciate the relationships around him.

Alba: I have longer hair. (laughs). Kidding! We're much more mature in our characters as super-heroes and sort this definitely is a product of this movie. We're all very much a family. We all live together. We're getting married, and that's sort of the centerpiece for my character in this movie. It's all about the wedding. She's sort of Bridezilla -- in the best way. She's stressed.

Gruffudd: Finally, Reed Richards has taken center stage. He's come more to the forefront. He's much more comfortable with his role as the leader and as sort of the father figure of the family. And I'm delighted about that. It's a lot more interesting character to play, compared to the first one, where he was a little more nerdy or darkish. This time, I'm stepping up to the plate and I'm becoming the leader.

And of course, our relationship -- between Sue and I -- is much more intimate, much more real, more three-dimensional...

Alba:: Developed...

Gruffudd: Developed and evolved. And an interesting point that Jessica brought up about the fact that we're much more comfortable now at being super-heroes. We are actors and people watch us do our work and we're sort of commodities. The Fantastic Four appreciate themselves to be commodities and are able to sell themselves as commodities as well as being super-heroes. So that's an interesting aspect to it.

Chiklis: I don't know how much to add. They've covered pretty much everything. As far as The Thing is concerned, he's taken another step in his relationship with Alicia in this picture. He's the lovable curmudgeon. If Reed Richards is the leader and the brain of this outfit, I would think that Ben Grimm would be the heart. He's a lovable curmudgeon. He's come to grips much more now with his malady (laughs) of being a super-hero. He's also a lot of the conscience and strength of the group and as a complement to everybody else's function.

I've always thought, like Chris said, the four separately are pretty fantastic, but together they're obviously much more powerful as a group.

Question: For Michael, I've heard that your suit is much lighter this time around and there have been some changes. Can you talk about the improvements?

Chiklis: The first film, I talked a lot about -- ad nauseam, actually, to the point where I couldn't stand hearing my own voice about it -- where it was a pretty uncomfortable situation. It was a main concern for me coming into this one, that it not be the same. It was very experimental and there was not a lot of time to look into it. The last one didn't have a zipper. I mean a pants zipper. So it made it a 45-minute ordeal just to urinate -- frankly, sorry. There were things, the heaviness.

Although the hero suit itself isn't much improved, meaning when I'm dressed in the Fantastic Four garb. That you really can't fake because he's bare-chested. That one I'm only in, fortunately, about 25 percent of the movie.

In the rest of the movie ... and it's quite really cute, I think, when you see him in the tuxedo for instance. So when I'm dressed in wardrobe, we've been able to use a much more lightweight material that breathes. It just creates the appearance of bulk without the intense discomfort. It's able to come off and on very, very quickly. So this has been a markedly more comfortable experience -- and much more healthful, frankly.

Question:: Beyond the popcorn, the fun and the ride, what does this movie mean to you?

McMahon: I feel a little repetitive because this is the second time around, but I'm going to repeat myself. I was a big fan of the comic book and cartoon. I always thought Doctor Doom was the most evil guy on the planet until Darth Vader came along. And then I thought Darth Vader was, and then they're kind of one and the same in a way.

So to be able to play that character and play in that genre, I mean it's a super-hero genre. It's ridiculous. It's fun. As an actor, particularly playing the evil guy, you get to play silly, fun stuff.

Chiklis: It's about good vanquishing evil, isn't it? And a dysfunctional family. People relate to it because they all have their own dysfunction, their own families. I'd be hard-pressed to find a family that isn't dysfunctional.

McMahon: And it's a comic book, you know what I mean?

Chiklis: Yeah, it is. It is fun.

McMahon: Playing in a comic book gets you a license to be a little bit different that you would in any other kind of movie.

Evans: I agree. It's a great opportunity to play a super-hero. It's kind of like every little boy's dream. In that regard, it was a great character to land. Any film that's this big and this exposed, it's good to get your face out there and have meetings like this.

It's just a good opportunity and enables future work. It helps prolong any type of potential career that I might be able to have.

Alba: You might be able to have? God forbid. You just have nothing going for you (laughs).

For me, gosh, what is the deeper meaning? I think just being a comic-book movie that appeals to family is kind of a big deal. Being able to play a female character that is so strong and so dominant and doesn't use her sex appeal to get ahead.

And she's not a villain. She's not nasty. She's quite a noble character to play, and that's great. I think it's a great female icon.

Gruffudd: Personally, it's the seeing the image of myself that I desired to have when I was watching these sort of movies when I was kid. It literally is a dream come true to play a heroic part and to play super-hero is a little extra bonus, I think. Just seeing that sort of childhood dream come true.

Question: Can you talk about the Fantasticar?

McMahon: I'll destroy it, I can tell you. (laughs)

Chiklis: Put together, it's going to look phenomenal. The first time I looked at it, I was excited. I'm a car guy, I like cars, and this one flies. I'd like to cruise around in this if they could get it to work.

Alba: It made me a little sick, actually, when we were shooting. I got a little nauseous. In all honesty, we spent a lot of time in the car and spent full days in the car, doing a lot of the virtual or CGI stuff. What is it like, the Back to the Future ride?

Chiklis: Yeah.

Alba: Similar to the Universal Studios' Back to the Future ride, going up, going down.

Question: For Ioan, what's it like being a British actor in a big Hollywood movie, but not being the villain?

Gruffudd: Well, I'm delighted to break that sort of tradition, really, of having a Brit or person who isn't an American playing the bad part. I'm very proud that I've immersed myself into a 100-percent American character. And that was a major desire of mine as an actor moving to Hollywood, that I was to be believable as an America. I didn't want any attention brought to me, that I was a British actor. I'm an actor period. So I'm very proud and thrilled to have this opportunity.

McMahon: And you're Welsh?

Gruffudd: And I'm Welsh.

McMahon: Does that mean you're trying to say I haven't broken any molds?

Gruffudd: (laughs) I was trying to say it as polite as possible way.

McMahon: (mockingly) No, no. That's fine. That's cool, I'm cool with that. I'm just your standard, run-of-the-mill whack job who just got a job because I come from another country. Okey, dokie, big smokie.

Gruffudd: No, but you've had a chance of your show, haven't you? You've proven yourself as American on your show.

Question: I noticed there's no actor here representing Silver Surfer. His name is in the title, so I assume some of you have interactions with Silver Surfer. Can you talk a little bit of how that invisible actor works on set?

Alba: Shhhhhh. We can't talk about that.

McMahon: We can't talk too much about the Silver Surfer, but he does really good.

Question: But you're working on set with no one there?

McMahon: That's just what you do on green screen.

Evans: There is somebody there. Doug Jones. Doug Jones wears the body suit. That cat's been out of the bag a while.

Gruffudd: It's the same essence of what Andy Serkis for the character of Gollum. He was there for the off-camera work and Doug is there for off-camera work, so we have a physical presence to work with. He has dialogue and it's good to bounce off a real person than a tennis ball with an 'X' on it.

Question: Piggy-backing on the question, has it gotten easier to work with effects?

Chiklis: I think we've all gotten better with it. It's moving more smoothly. There's more of that than there was on the first one.

Gruffudd: There's certainly a lot more green-screen this time round. To be perfectly honest, the preparation for that sort of process is to get yourself a lot of DVDs and a lot of PlayStation games, because you're going to spend a lot of time in your trailer. That's just the nature of green-screen because it's so precise and it's such an art in that sense, it takes so long for them to set it up just for one particular shot. And you come onto the set and you're quite literally working for two or three takes, which took about maybe 10 minutes. And they set it up for the last hour-and-a-half.

I tell you what, my hat goes off to those guys who did all the Star Wars movies totally against the green screen. Because at least we have the organic nature of working with sets and tangible things, compared to just a green canvas.

McMahon: It's also a different type of performance.

Chiklis: This isn't what I would refer to as an actor's piece, you know what I mean? It requires skill as an actor, absolutely. That's not what I'm saying.

McMahon: It's a different type of skill. To be able to work with a green screen is a different type of skill than to able to work in a house in a kitchen with other people. I think it's very development in regards in the way you start thinking about things. Once you're working on green screen, you are looking at tennis balls, you are looking at X' marks and you have to create it all in your head.

And like he said, take your hats off to all those Star Wars guys. Harrison Ford's flying down that thing with Chewbacca behind, that's a pretty good effort, you know? It definitely creates another part of how you use your brain.

Chiklis: Definitely. You have to be in touch with your inner child.

McMahon: Yeah, and the fantasy of the whole thing. Flying through space or flying through air in a car like this, there's an imagination that goes along with that that I think is very cool.

Gruffudd: It heights your concentration, I think that's what it does. Because you are searching for things that aren't physically there. Somehow, weirdly, it gives you a real focus because you have to focus on things that aren't there. You really concentrate your mind. I think it will add to all these sequences when you see us so concentrated and so involved, that we believe that we are flying around in this car and being tossed around by Doom. If we don't believe it, then the audience won't believe.

Question: Getting back to the suit and the Fantisticar, Michael, what kind of challenge do you find it getting in that thing?

Chiklis: I guess with these movies for me and a lot of questions I've fielded -- and I guess part of it is my own fault; I've brought in on myself -- it's been about discomfort. But I have to say, like last week, I got to work with a 10-foot tall, 1,650-pound Kodiak bear. And that's one of the reasons why I love this business. Because that's something you don't get to do in life, to stand in front of a predator, six feet away like that. In spite of whatever discomfort I've had to go through, it's been quite exhilarating and thrilling sometime. And getting in the Fantasticar... they made a huge bucket seat for me. I fit in there find. They've accommodated me in whatever ways they've been able to to make it livable. It's been fine.

Question: You're trying to find a way to make something so fantastical serious. How do you find way to make it serious?

Chiklis: Frankly, in the first one, I had a much more serious storyline, tonally. I was a guy trapped in a body he didn't want to be in and I had much more of a conflict in that way. In this one, it's very light for me. So it would probably be better for one of the other guys to answer that.

Gruffudd: There's a practicality to it. Because we have done the first movie. We were setting up the story in the first movie. There wasn't much scope for adventure. We were explaining to everybody who we were, introducing ourselves. Now, we start the movie and everybody knows who we are, we start the adventure almost immediately. In that sense, it's a massive step forward.

But as far as the acting, it's a pleasure to come back to a character, having played it once. It's a luxury. You don't get to do that unless you're in a show or a series. To do that on screen in a movie like this, it's a great feeling. It gives you a lot of confidence. I've evolved over the last two years and that will in turn feed and bleed into the character of Reed Richards.

Alba: To be honest, as silly and big and comic-booky and the CGI and everything is, we really play it for real, with as much conviction and sincerity as anybody would be in those circumstances.

There's been a two-year gap, where I've been able to do a few things as well, and I think where you're growing as a person or an actor will definitely help you in doing the next movie. And if we get to do a third one, we'll be even more evolved -- hopefully -- as people and as actors.

Evans: I agree. I've never had an opportunity to work on a sequel. I've always been curious working on even television, playing a character and having the opportunity to see the way he came to life and refine your approach. This has been a great opportunity, regardless of the genre. Whether you have a children's movie or an action film or a deep-thinking piece, it's exciting to get back in the saddle, to try and adjust what you don't think work and make better what you think did. So regardless of whether the script was directed towards children or adults or is silly or whatever, I was excited to get back in the saddle.

McMahon: That's our job, to take it seriously. I know it's a kids movie and a popcorn movie and all that kind of stuff, but to make it that, you have to take your job seriously. If I'm in a situation where it's funny, then you have to make it funny. If I'm in a situation where it's dramatic, then you have to make it dramatic. And dramatic can be funny and all that other stuff.

It's just like any other job. You take your script and you work with it the way you can. You work with your other actors. You work with your director. And you come up with something that's hopefully plausible and hopefully something sticks to the screen and everybody goes, "Well, I believe they're in that moment and that moment of time."

Question: All of you have specific powers. Can you address to the degree you can what's different or better this time?

Gruffudd: The powers are the same. They are limited in that sense to our own individual powers. What's interesting is the psychological aspect of it, that we're presented the character of the Silver Surfer, who is rather ambiguous. We are not sure if he's good or evil, so that's more of the challenge this time for the characters.

Of course, there will be lots of fantastic special effects of myself stretching and catapulting objects and Sue protecting us in her invisible sphere and Johnny flying and chasing the Silver Surfer and Ben scaring away bears.

But the interesting part is that psychological element. How do we work as a team against this other force, coupled with Doctor Doom. So the challenge is twice as much this time.

McMahon: We have to be pretty specific to the original comic in a way. So it's not like we can come up with powers that weren't already there. I think it's just an enhancing of the story line, an enhancing of all the powers. I do come back and try to get more power, which I do get for a period of time. And then at the end of the movie, I kill them all. (laughs) I'm sorry, take that back.

They already are what they are. And they can be enhanced by certain things. And the Silver Surfer, everybody knows about that. So he comes into the mix. And I don't know if you know the comic book very well, but the Silver Surfer's got some pretty extraordinary powers. And it's something to behold and it's something to reckon with if I get a hold of it -- and something different if they do. So there's that kind of battle to a certain extent.

Chiklis: Ioan really touched on it. The fact of the matter is the first piece is an origin piece. We can jump in right now and the stakes are raised immediately. We introduce another character, the Silver Surfer, and his powers are enhanced. Now we have a bigger challenge on our hands and we can jump right into it. So, it's bigger. It's better.

Alba: I think the difference in as far as how are powers go, we all, like they were saying, have the same powers. It's just sort of integrated into our day-to-day life. It may have been a big deal if Johnny could toast his own toast. Now, it isn't. We don't care any more.

Or if I turn things invisible. It's like, "Make it reappear, Sue." "Well, listen to me, Ben." It's just a bit more integrated, I guess.

Evans: Jess took my answer. There's a more practical approach to the powers. The first movie we were clunking around, figuring them out. But now we got it down.

Question: You said the script references celebrity. Jessica, can you tell me what is your feeling about the script says about celebrity. And is it accurate?

Alba: It just shows that they want to be human beings. That just want a regular family life. Unfortunately, when you're under a microscope, everyone is very critical of your version of what that means. And, so, people are picking them apart and putting them on pedestals and lifting them up and tearing them down for newsworthy sound bites. And they're like, "But we're still human beings. We just want a family. We just want to be married."

Unfortunately they can't. Because they are super-heroes and they have to sacrifice their regular life for that.

In turn, wanted to be an actor and losing your anonymity a bit... the press, it only means as much as you want to give them. If it really matters that much whether someone's hair is messed up or not or whether you're wearing the right boots for the season or whether you're out partying too much -- who cares? I think it really depends on how much weight you put on it.

Gruffudd: For the Fantastic Four, there was no choice in that matter for these guys. These powers were thrust upon them. And there's a certain element of choice for an actor. You are going to be in the public eye and therefore you have to take on that responsibility. And I think the Fantastic Four, as much as they've capitalized on their fame...

Alba: Johnny!

Gruffudd: ... and they're marketing themselves, there's a certain level of responsibility. You can't have your cake and eat it. That's actually brought up in the movie and it's a very interesting subject.



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